Clear, easy, and practical teaching to help YOU master Adobe Photoshop.
Alright. By now I think you really understand the basic concept of layers. So now in this tutorials it is time to look at some of the advanced concepts of layers. This tutorial will be very simple (Hooray!) but it will still teach a lot. Okay, let’s get started.
Time to dig in. Literally.
Before you even create a new document, I want to show you a neat little perk. Go ahead and copy the image from the link below.
Now, create a new document, but before you click okay, notice that the file size preset is set to “clipboard.” This means that the document size will be the same size as the most recent image that you copied! So now if you click okay, the document size will be the same size as the dirt image. That means that when you paste in the image of the dirt, it will already fit into your art board and you won’t have to resize it or scale it. Cool, huh?
So go ahead and paste in your image.
Next, go ahead and copy and paste in this image:
Using the magic wand tool, click on the white background and delete it. I’ll add in a picture to refresh your memory of the wand tool.
Scale the shovel up a little bit and maybe rotate itsome so it looks a bit more realisic next to the size of the dir mounds.
Cool. Now we have our source images and a base image to work with.
Now the desired effect here is to make it look as if the shovel is half buried under the dirt. One thing we could do is erase the bottom edge of the shovel, but when dealing with images like this, in which each little detail contributes to the effect, it is important to have total over control over what is going on. Once you erase part of the shovel, it is gone for good. So say you erase a little too much and a new dirt mound is showing making it look unrealistic, you have to edit > undo your work back to that point. This is know as destructive editing: editing images while destroying the original source content. It can be a dangerous thing.
Instead, we are going to apply a technique know as masking by creating a layer mask. A layer mask allows you to erase without deleting.
We are not going to mask our shovel layer though. Instead, to create more realism, we are going to duplicate our dirt layer and drag it above our shovel layer. This creates more realism by allowing us to see and work with the contours of the dirt while masking.
Now, making sure that you have the top dirt layer selected, apply a layer mask by clicking on the new layer mask button.
Click on the actual layer mask. This is very important, or else you will just start painting over your layer. Then, using a hard paint brush tool, change your foreground color to black and paint over where you remember your shovel was. You will see that the shovel starts to reappear. Now paint over everywhere except the portion of the shovel you want to remain under the dirt.
THERE ARE TWO THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN PAINTING LAYER MASKS:
BLACK HIDES (LIKE ERASER)
WHITE REVEALS (OPPOSITE OF ERASER)
To test this out, switch your foreground color to white, and paint back over where your shovel was. Notice how it disappears. You are revealing the dirt on top of the shovel. When you paint black, you are hiding the dirt behind the shovel. Understand? Using layers masks is a form on nondestructive editing: you are erasing without deleting the source content.
Here is what I have come up with.
Let’s add a shadow. Duplicate the shovel layer and drag it to the very top of your layers palette. Now double click the layer to open the layer styles palette. Layer styles are just a series of quick effects you can add to each layer. Click on the tab labeled color overlay. Change the color to black.
Now you should have a black shovel. Using the scale command, reshape the layer and move it around to place it in a spot that looks good for a shadow.
Create a layer mask on the shadow layer and using black (to hide) paint over where the shovel head is. If you paint too much and start erasing parts of the shadow you don’t want to erase, remember that you can switch to white and start painting back the parts of the shadow you want back.
Now let’s make the shadow look more real. You can see through a shadow, remember? This next thing I am about to teach you is probably the advanced layer concept you will use more than anything: more than masking and more than layer styles. To me, they are what truly makes photoshop awesome, because they empower you to do all kinds of crazy effects. It is called a blend mode. We are going to change the blend mode on the shadow. To begin, whenever you use the layer style color overlay, like we did, blend modes do not work. So we have to change the layer to a smart object which you already know how to do from lesson 4. Right click your shadow layer and select convert to smart object. Notice that converting a masked layer to a smart object will get rid of the layer mask. Next, pull down your blend modes tab (showed in picture below) and select “soft light.” Don’t worry about what each blend mode does. I know that there are a lot. This is just something you will learn over time. The best way to learn is just to play around with them really. A lot of times they yield unexpected results, so just have fun with them.
Next, this isn’t really a layer tip or anything, but I think it really looks cool and it’s another little effect to learn. Like I said, you learn little bits and pieces as you go along. Let’s give the shadow a slight blur. No shadows have straight edges. At the top of your screen, click Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Type in 5 for the blur radius. We’ll work more with gaussian blurs later in an awesome project I have planned. It’s a sweet one and I can’t wait to write it! Anyway, now our shadow looks a bit more realistic.
Almost done! One last advanced layer concept to learn! Adjustment Layers. An adjustment layer is a special effects only layer. What is really neat about adjustment layers though is that they only effect the layers underneath them. Let’s think back to the construction paper analogy. Let’s say I have some really thick ink that will bleed through any sheets of paper underneath it. If I have 3 sheets of construction paper and pour the ink on top, it will bleed through and affect all three sheets. But then if I place a fourth sheet on top of the ink, it remains unaltered. Understand?
An adjustment layer will apply the same effect to every layer beneath it in the palette, but will not affect any of the layers above it.
For the sake of this project, we will use the adjustment layer called Curves. Click on the new adjustment layer button, a half-black-half-white circle, and select curves.
When you select curves, a curve graph will pop up somewhere on the screen depending on what version of photoshop you have. It looks like a diagonal line going from bottom left of a graph to top right of a graph. Because you don’t know how to work curves yet (I just want you to see how adjustment layers work) play around with the graph yourself. Alter the graph by clicking on the line and moving it around. You can also switch color channels by pressing on the arrows next to where it says RGB (or CYMK depending on your photoshop mode). Switching color channels and messing with that line simply changes the color. Have some fun with it! Here are some different version I made by messing around with curves. I will show you my curves graphs too.
And now some wackier ones….
Well, you can choose whatever curve looks coolest to you. And there’s another project done!
So let’s review some of the advanced layer concepts we have learned that, trust me, you will be reusing all the time.
First we talked about layer styles. You only learned they layer style color overlay, but now you know they exist and you know how to access them.
Next we talked about masking. Masking is a form of nondestructive editing in which we can erase portions of layers without deleting any source content.
Then we talked about blend modes. You will probably change blend modes more than you will pull any other effect in photoshop. They are sooo handy. Really. You only used the blend mode soft light, but as our tutorials move on, you will begin to learn more and what they do. Blend modes change the way a layer it layered on top of another layer. It’s life adding transparent paper into the mix in our construction paper analogy. We will go more into blend modes later.
Finally we talked about adjustment layers. Adjustment layers are special layers that apply an effect to every layer that is underneath it. We didn’t even learn curves yet, it was just an example to show you that adjustment layers exist and what they do. Believe it or not, we won’t use adjustment layers much, but they will definitely be part of some of our tutorials – you can count on that much.
Well, that pretty much concludes the Exploring Layers segment of my tutorials. To give you an idea of how it will work from here, there are a few more basic concepts that will be reoccurring throughout photoshop besides layers. You will be selecting objects all the time, as so far we have only learned the magic wand tool and briefly touched the lasso tool. So next I will probably write a two or three lesson segment on selection techniques. From there, my philosophy is that the best way to learn is just to do projects. By slowly working on project after project of increasing difficulty, over time you will begin to pick up on tools. For example, in the middle of a tutorial I may just throw in a clone stamp section or something which you have no idea to use, and now, suddenly, you know how to use it, and over time you will learn to be creative with each individual tool. The magic of graphic designing is not your art, it’s not your skill, it’s not your knowledge of the software; it’s your problem solving ability. You will encounter road blocks that you have to find a way to solve by using unique and creative methods, and the best way to learn how to create your own methods is to learn other people’s methods… if you follow that. So basically, I will do one or two more lesson series like this one on layers, and then from there, once I think you have learned the essential concepts and skills, we will just start working on projects. No two projects will necessarily be related like these series’ are, but they will be fun and you will learn something new in each lesson. I guarantee it. I even have some video tutorials prepared. The fact is that you learn by exposure. So now that you understand layers, let’s get this selecting stuff out of the way and move on to the fun stuff, because selection techniques are like those segments of math class that nobody likes but are absolutely necessary. If you can make it through them, you can start designing some seriously cool art.
So let’s get crackin’.